O que aconteceu? > Saying “What happened?” in Portuguese

O que aconteceu?
There are three ways that Brazilians ask, "what happened?": (1) O que aconteceu?; (2) O que foi?; (3) O que houve? (verb HAVER).

And they often mix these together! Ordered by popularity they are:

O que aconteceu?

You'll often hear it said like this:

O que é que aconteceu. = literally: What is (it) that happened?

In either case, Brazilians are very likely to swallow the "o" as well as adding an extra "que". The result can sound like: que que aconteceu.

O que aconteceu na festa? > What happened at the party?

This sentence actually ranks at #215 on the list of most frequently used Portuguese phrases (download the list here). It's something you need to be able to express easily. There are other - very popular - other ways of saying the same thing: What happened? ...

O que foi?

The foi comes from the verb SER. You are literally saying: What was. In this instance, Brazilians are likely to swallow the "o" or the entire "o que"!

O que foi na reunião? > What happened at the meeting?

This is, of course, SER is the preterite perfect (the simple past) tense -- the same conjugation as the verb IR. I often don't really know what verb I'm conjugating as I think of the past tense of these as the same. For example, Como foi a reunião? - translates as: How did the meeting GO? just as well.

O que houve?

Using the verb HAVER.

This is one usage of HAVER that's very common. You'll often hear simply: que houve?

O que houve ontem? > What happened yesterday?
In action: